Aging Well Committee makes plea for help
By Darren Lum
Published Nov. 29, 2016
Aging Well Committee president Angela Andrews asked the close to 40 people at the Age-Friendly Master Plan luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 22 to join the committee.
“It’s pretty critical that if we don’t have more people helping out then we could possibly fold. And so it’s a real challenge because we’ve done all of this great work and we have all these wonderful ideas and we know it’s a need in our community, but unless we have the people around the table to talk about the ideas to bring them forward to council and to really take on the projects we have been discussing it won’t go anywhere,” she said at the event held at the Haliburton Legion.
The first draft of the Age Friendly Master Plan is scheduled for completion in December and will be presented to the age friendly working group followed by a presentation to Haliburton County council by early January.
Once it is done, it will be a guide to improving the community to enhance quality of life.
Kate Hall, the plan’s consultant, who led the luncheon with a PowerPoint presentation said the approach of the master plan is to apply the “eight to 80 test” – meeting the needs of an eight-year-old addresses the needs of people 80 and older. This can be reducing tripping hazards, improving snow removal on high traffic pedestrian areas, adding benches and crosswalks to streets, and ensuring pathways are accessible to facilitate access to amenities.
Hall was hired using the $25,000 from the province’s Age Friendly Community Planning Grant Program.
The framework for this master plan was based on the World Health Organization’s eight aspects of an Age-Friendly Community: the built environment; transportation; housing; social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication, and community support and health services.
The main takeaway from the data was that the top three needs in our county are transportation, housing and transitional home care.
The rural nature of Haliburton County presents a transportation challenge. Owning a vehicle, Hall said, can cost upwards of $10,000 a year. Without it though, a person is not only just hindered from receiving health services, but can become isolated. The recent addition of senior residences and condominiums could be ideal for the foundation of co-operative vehicle use, she offered. Recently, the Haliburton Rideshare (Haliburtonrideshare.ca) was started by the Rural Transportation Options committee with representation from Communities in Action, CARP, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition and others.
Hall said, “It’s about neighbours helping neighbours.”
When it comes to housing, moving doesn’t have to be inevitable if in-home health-care professionals were available. Hall said politicians need to advocate for such services so that more aging residents can live in their homes longer rather than feel forced to move closer to medical facilities.
Co-ordination between health service providers could alleviate challenges in getting to appointments. Hall said one idea was to enable a group of people from one area to have their medical appointments on the same day so that transportation to cities outside our county could include more than one person. Another idea is to have medical professionals go to retirement residences and see more than one person for a blood test.
Another finding was there is a demand for “hands-on” home maintenance help for not just elderly, but the physically challenged people. Service providers agree, but are not in a position to do more at this time so political advocacy is required.
The shortage of medical professionals leads to transportation and housing issues. When more professionals are available locally then the other issues are less of a concern.
Committee member Margery Cartwright, a member since 2009, reminded the audience the power they wield as a group to influence and effect change.
“I would really like you to think about helping us push the county along and push Dysart along because otherwise nothing is going to happen,” she said.
The committee has made positive change even if it is not immediately noticed. An example, she said, is the addition of chairs with arms added to hospital waiting rooms and public places. For a person with arthritis, she said, this helps her get out of the chairs.
A key component to the master plan initiative is in the execution.
An action plan will include service providers in community support and health services to ensure it is in people’s work plans in January.
“That this isn’t a plan that the ideas come forward and then the plan gets [stuck] on the shelf, but we get the people around the table that can actually make those decisions and can actually put it in somebody’s work plan and can actually figure out how to make it happen so change actually happens,” she said.
The Aging Well Committee will pursue advocacy work related to the needs raised in the research, which includes sidewalks, bicycle facilities, benches, hearing services and working libraries, offering portable devices.
In March, the project will wrap up and then the final report will be sent to the province in May.
For more information about the master plan call the health unit at 457-1391 ext. 3229.